How 13 Trade Show Professionals Are Following Their Passions During the Pandemic

July 24, 2020

When Jeff Fugate’s lost his decade-long position as senior vice president of sales and marketing for Experient due to the pandemic, it could have sent him into a tailspin. But instead of wallowing, Fugate used this life change to channel his passion into something he’d always wanted to do. As of July, he’s the owner of Empty Bowl Queso, a new company purveying New Mexico hatch green chile pepper cheese dip with the world (or at least, the Washington, D.C. area—for now).

He’s far from the only trade show professional launching a new business or perfecting a hobby lately. All facets of the industry have seen layoffs and furloughs, and these event profs below have found a silver lining in their fate. There are so many talented people in this industry, there isn’t much they cannot do. Take a look: 

Tracie Holladay, who worked for Freeman for more than two decades, has gotten crafty. She crocheted an entire afghan for her husband and says she’d like to start an Etsy page, as well as a YouTube channel showing others how to do crochet. 

Glenda Brungardt, who’s been a global event manager for HP since 1977, has been using her downtime to refresh her skills and education, and also learn new ones. But, “I sure am missing the lessons from the road and my road family,” she notes.

Bobby Bollen, a project manager with Czarnowski exhibit services, is also using this time to further his education. He’s working on a couple of different certifications that will hopefully benefit him in the near future, he says, and also spending more time with loved ones. “The day-to-day of a project manager doesn't leave a whole lot of downtime to just relax or enjoy family and friends,” he notes. “I do miss the activities of work and patiently wait until I can return.”

Jimmy Peebles, a freight foreman at Shepard Exposition Services, decided he’d put in enough years on the job. The pandemic prompted him to put in his retirement papers.

Jon Althoff, senior director of corporate marketing and regional sales management at Skyline Exhibits, is brushing up on his education and teaching himself new tricks, especially in the digital realm, he says—and eagerly anticipating the industry’s grand comeback.

Eric Easthon, a former senior account executive with Derse exhibits, has taken time to learn digital painting skills and revisit his passion for making art ever since he was laid off in March. “That’s something I’ve never had a lot of time to do in the last several years,” he says.

Julie Teplitzky, a global project manager at ConferenceDirect, has been channeling her design eye by focusing on house renovations and interior design through her new company, Wanderlust Design Co.

Lydia Penn, a Las Vegas-based trade show specialist and promotional model for events, has been focused on improving her Instagram and turning her colorful account into a moneymaker through collaborations with brands.

Jakob Ulcnik has leaned into his entrepreneurial side by launching, a company that produces a podcast with stories from exhibition and trade show professionals.

Steven Straka, with no events to manage through his position with UBU Expos, has spent his time helping the community by becoming a volunteer firefighter.

Mandee Flanders was a tour manager and recruiter for an event staffing agency for six years. When events shut down and both she and her husband lost so much work, she took the opportunity to pursue an entirely new position working with digital advertising vehicles through Runningboards Marketing. She also re-acquired an established equestrian blog, Horse Family, which she’s operating as a side hustle. 

Stephanie Garcia, a project manager with The Expo Group for about the last four years, finished studying for the PMP exam and passed. She’s also made progress in her baking skills. “I finally nailed a 1-hour roll recipe,” she says. Her backyard chickens have been keeping her busy, as well. “It totally sucks not to be at work, but time with my husband and daughter, dogs and chickens have been a lovely respite from a long career on the road,” she adds.

What passions are you pursuing during your downtime this pandemic? Share with us on Twitter, @tsnn_com_us.


Submitted by Jared Joly (not verified) on Tue, 07/28/2020 - 09:07

Owner of Exhibitors Choice.

Starting to work on a video series: The Big Belly Bachelor Cooks!

Will focus on recipes and techniques when cooking for just yourself. Simple and tasty comfort food, barbecue, grilling and smoking, Cajun, Creole and Italian classics are my specialties.

Will include tips on versatile kitchen tools, shopping and preparation, as well as impressive Date Night and Morning After specialties.

Hope to be releasing the first by October.

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